Sage restates commitment to small business

Sage emphasized that even as it moves its technology forward, it will not forget the SMB customers who built up its business. Sage also is making an effort to pick up new customers among millennials, and to increase its presence in the U.S.

Stephen Kelly 300

Stephen Kelly, Sage Group’s CEO

NEW ORLEANS – This week at Sage Summit, Sage has been sending out consistent messages to both its traditional customer base, and to markets where it is actively looking to expand its customer base. To its SMB customers, particularly those on the smaller end of that spectrum, Sage has been stressing that even as it deepens its technology investments and attempts to push deeper into the enterprise, it will not only maintain its commitment to smaller customers, but will intensify it. The company also indicated that it will work to improve its presence in the U.S., and among younger customers.

Stephen Kelly, Sage Group’s CEO, kicked off the event by telling his audience that he has a strong personal commitment to smaller business.

“I took the position because I’m passionate about SMB,” he said. “I worked as a 12 year old packing coffee bags in the family business. That helped make me an advocate for SMBs. We will fight for you. We are your champion, dedicated to you.”

Kelly also stressed the theme that Sage wants to make SMBs customers for life.

“It’s our goal every day to earn the right to make you a customer for life,” Kelly told Sage partners and customers. “Customer for life means three things: helping you run your business; putting you in control; and giving you choices.”

Like most vendors, Sage is today emphasizing the importance of giving customers choice between on-prem, hybrid and cloud, but unlike some, they are not nudging customers down a migration path.

“We are happy for you to run your business from your own offices, or completely in the cloud, or a combination,” Kelly said. “You run your business the way you want to run your business, and Sage is there for you. Sage will not force you to migrate. You will decide when to migrate and we will be there for you. ‘End of life’, ‘forced migration’ – these are not in our vocabulary. We think ‘end of life’ are killer words for a small business. It would be disrespectful of us to force them to move. They run the time clock.”

Kelly said that to symbolize this commitment, Sage will no longer use the term ERP to describe any of their products.

“ERP is a 25-year old industry term characterized by cost overrun and business ruin imposed on you,” he told the audience. It stands for expense, regret and pain.”

Compared to its competitors, Sage is a relative latecomer to the cloud, but Kelly said that they have ambitious targets.

“We are talking millions of customers,” he said. “There are 72 million SMBs in the geos in which we operate, 29 million of those in the US, and another 500,000 being created every month. We have to be there for them. Many run on spreadsheets and we can give them world class accounting systems for five dollars a month.”

While most of the product goals are not public, one that has been shared externally, for Sage One, has a target of one million subscribers.

“We’ve got smart targets,” Kelly said.

Kelly also indicated that he sees a silver cloud in Sage’s entry into the cloud market.

“We have competitors who built cloud solutions in 2005, 2009, and 2010,” he said. “All these other guys need to have developers in the back office working on plumbing that offers no value. Ours are working on functionality that deliver huge business value.”

Kelly also addressed the issue of Sage’s performance in the U.S. market, where even though they have a large number of customers, a lot of this install base is older, and where the company faces the challenge of getting new customers interested in a brand many don’t even know exist.

“North America is an opportunity and challenge for us, and we are totally committed to the USA, he said.”

Kelly also stressed Sage is going strongly after organizations run and staffed by younger people.

“From this conference, the message is that Sage is serious. We have products for the millenials, people who are just starting their businesses today. We’ve hired folks in digital marketing. We are really stepping up our game here.”